Max Boyce and Welsh Rugby Football have been part of me for as long as I can remember. In my twenties and thirties playing rugby in Southern England when Wales ruled supreme in the Northern Hemisphere and the Welsh dominated British and Irish Lions were conquering overseas, Max was very much part of that scene.
This ex-miner turned singer songwriter very quickly became a national treasure, throughout the whole of Wales and not just amongst the rugby communities. For a Welshman, like me, away from home he was a link back to my roots. Every time I played his records or a cassette in the car I knew exactly what I was – proudly Welsh. With other Welsh ex-pats we sang his songs in English rugby clubs after playing oblivious of of everyone else.
Max’ songs are still sung in rugby clubs 40 years on. When the English rugby team need uplifting or congratulating the spectators sing a negro spiritual, Swing Low Sweet Chariot. When Wales are doing well we sing a Max Boyce song “Hymns and Arias”! When I spoke with Max before a game in Cardiff last year I asked hime how he felt sitting in the Millennium Stadium with 50,000 welshmen and women singing his song? He said it makes him incredibly proud and brought a tear to his eye every time.
With two Six Nations Grand Slams and a Championship win in recent years and a good showing in the previous World Cup – and the predominantly Welsh British and Irish Lions team stuffing Australia I’m getting a bit of deja vu!
When Max leaves this place there will be a hole in Wales that will never be filled. Let’s hope it will be a long time yet. Happy 70th Birthday Max!